Oars pounded the waters of the Thames this past weekend as crews from the University of London Boat Club met crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities for some pre-Boatrace fixtures. Each Boatrace crew is nearing the culmination of their respective training programmes, six months of grueling training sessions, early mornings and sacrifices of a ‘normal’ life coming down to just one race of roughly eighteen minutes – it would therefore be wise to get some practice in beforehand!

In the thick of it

Historically in the weeks leading up the the Boatrace itself, crews from both Oxford and Cambridge race against other top rowing clubs before facing off against each other in their final engagement on the Tideway. Although the fixtures are not for any reward the chance to race side-by-side against opponents is invaluable practice for race day and, despite being essentially a ‘friendly match’ and chance for the crews to benefit from the occasion, the racing is as fierce as ever.

Line Up

On the Saturday University of London’s second boat raced their opposites from Cambridge’s “Goldie” boat (the reserves to the Boatrace crew). With a late starting race the sun had almost fallen below the horizon as both crews set off from Putney towards Chiswick, it soon became apparent that Cambridge were able to tap into superior power and strength to dominate the smaller and lighter London crew. The London crew did not let it go without a fight however and valiantly fought during each of the 6 minute long races but were out classed by a talented Cambridge crew.

University of London vs Cambridge Goldie

University of London vs Cambridge Goldie

Cambridge Goldie

The following day brought a change in the mean grey clouds of recent weeks and we were treated to clear blue skies and sunshine! Sunday was the turn of London’s top boat, with a handful of ex-students who are or have been part of the Great Britain Senior Squad, to race against Oxford University’s Boatrace crew – itself containing a healthy dose of internationals and Olympic athletes. From the start each crew fought hard to catch an early lead. With the London crew caught off-guard in the first of three races Oxford took the initiative and moved over to make life hard for them, the race tuned Oxford crew made sure they stamped out a clear victory. The second race saw a much greater speed from the London crew but unfortunately they couldn’t quite hang on to Oxford who powered away to victory.

Hands i

The section the Thames being raced on is tidal, which essentially boils down to there being an optimal line to take in order to catch the fast flowing stream and pass or stay ahead of the opposition. For the coxes steering these craft, charging downstream with flashing blades on either side, the skill is holding your ground against the opposition Only one crew can take the fastest line and despite an umpire inevitably there will be some close calls, perhaps even a clash of blades – or worse a breakage (as happened in 2012′s Boatrace resulting in a loss for Oxford).


After one such close encounter at the start of the third and final race a restart was called by the umpire. Oxford once again were able to draw out a lead and stay out in front, although London still pushed on hard to try and get back in touch it didn’t happen. A good day’s tussle on the Tideway.

This year’s Boatrace, sponsored by BNY Mellon, is held on 31st March.


A small gallery of images is below (click the thumbnails or arrows either side of the image) and to see more from the UL v OUBC races click this link.





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